Outlook: Coach Donnie Yantis knew he would have to replace Boise State-bound quarterback Ryan Finley (3,442 yards, 35 TD, 8 INT) after last year’s football season, but wasn’t counting on a switch this summer, too. Senior starter-to-be Trent Gavelek gave up the sport in June, which means sophomore Daniel Bridge-Gadd will be given the reins to the team’s offense. Despite the sudden uptick in responsibility, Yantis said Bridge-Gadd is handling the transition well.
“When Trent left the program the light came on,” Yantis said. “The whole month of July (Bridge-Gadd) did a really good job. He’s not scared at all. This kid is really calm, cool and collected.”
Bridge-Gadd is a dual threat, which has opened up more possibilities for the Paradise Valley offense. It also helps how much talent surrounds him. Leading receiver Jordan Brown returns and will play a big role in the team’s fortunes on offense as well as in the secondary. Leading rusher Bailey Campbell is back, as is second-leading receiver Carl Westlund, who will play full-time on defense and split repetitions on offense.
Yantis likes the look of his defense, which returns seven starters. Safety Max Vankempen will join Brown and Westlund in a secondary which is expected to be the team’s strength. Linebacker Mahrley Scott and defensive lineman Tyler Welch are also expected to contribute heavily.
“I’m excited about the direction of our defense,” Yantis said. “We’re putting a huge emphasis on it. You can’t win big games without defense. Last year a lot of our games were track meets. We couldn’t afford to make any mistakes on offense. We’re really hanging our hat on defense this year.”
The schedule is easier than years past, but it does ramp up with consecutive games against Notre Dame and Chaparral to end the regular season. The defense should be solid from the start, and if Bridge-Gadd can progress as the games move forward, Paradise Valley should be in the state tournament hunt once again.
Division II, Section VII
Coach: Donnie Yantis
Last year’s record: 7-4, lost to Liberty in first round of Division III state playoffs
Returning Starters: 6 on offense/7 on defense
Top returners: WR/DB Jordan Brown (56 rec., 862 yards, 8 TD); WR/DB Carl Westlund (41 rec., 648 yards, 11 TD); RB Bailey Thompson (113 carries, 605 yards, 4 TD); DB Jesse Jackson (80 tackles, interception); DL Tyler Welch (59 tackles, 5 sacks).
Aug. 30 vs. Camelback; Sept. 6 at North Canyon; Sept. 12 at Mingus; Sept. 20 vs. Horizon; Sept. 27 at Willow Canyon; Oct. 4 vs. Arcadia; Oct. 11 vs. Kingman; Oct. 18 at Cactus Shadows; Oct. 25 at Notre Dame; Nov. 1 vs. Chaparral
Sept. 20 vs. Horizon: This is the type of toss-up game which is key for Paradise Valley’s season. The strength of schedule likely won’t be great for the Trojans, so amassing an impressive win-loss record will help in the playoff push. The teams are close in proximity and it could be a close game on the field.
Oct. 25 at Notre Dame: These two teams are old foes from the 4A days, and this matchup near the end of the regular season is key for state tournament positioning. Both are replacing some key parts but have some young talent in the pipeline. Notre Dame will likely have the superior depth, but this could be a good matchup.
Nov. 1 vs. Chaparral: Paradise Valley shocked the state by knocking off Saguaro in last year’s regular season opener. The Trojans will look to do the same by beating Scottsdale’s other power at the end of the 2013 season. The Firebirds may be the Division II title favorite and it will take a near-perfect effort for Paradise Valley to have a chance.